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Adapt vs. Adjust: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on November 6, 2023
"Adapt" means to change oneself to suit different conditions, while "adjust" means to alter or move something slightly to achieve a desired fit, appearance, or result.

Key Differences

Adaptation involves a transformational change where an individual, species, or entity develops traits over time to fit new conditions. Conversely, to adjust means to make minor changes for a more comfortable or functional fit within existing conditions. Both processes are responses to change, but adapting often entails a deeper, more systemic change than adjusting.
To adapt is to undergo a modification to suit a new environment or context, a concept found in biology and personal development. To adjust, on the other hand, typically involves small tweaks to existing situations or objects to improve functionality or comfort. While adapting might mean developing new skills to thrive in a changing job market, adjusting would be more akin to shifting one's work hours to improve work-life balance.
In the context of technology, a business may adapt by overhauling its infrastructure to implement new systems, indicating a comprehensive and foundational change. Adjusting, in this same context, would be more about fine-tuning the software settings to optimize performance. Adaptation can thus be seen as a holistic response to change, whereas adjustment is more about optimization and fine-tuning.
Adaptation requires a level of creativity and innovation to survive or thrive under new or challenging conditions. To adjust, however, is more about problem-solving within a given framework to make something work better. For instance, animals adapt to climate change by developing new behaviors, while a person might adjust the thermostat to maintain a comfortable room temperature.
An individual adapts by adopting a new mindset or approach when faced with life changes, such as moving to a different country. Adjusting, in contrast, is what one does when settling into a new home by arranging furniture to fit the space. Adaptation is about the evolution of traits or behaviors over time, while adjustment often implies immediate, reactive changes to suit a specific purpose or function.

Comparison Chart


Broad, fundamental changes.
Minor, superficial or situational changes.

Time Frame

Long-term, evolutionary.
Immediate, short-term.


Personal development, evolution.
Fitting in, modifying settings.


Involves complex changes.
Involves simple or slight alterations.


To become suitable for a new environment.
To make suitable within an existing context.

Adapt and Adjust Definitions


To make suitable for a new use or purpose.
The film was adapted from a novel.


To adapt or become accustomed to a new situation.
She adjusted to college life within a few weeks.


To modify oneself to new conditions.
She adapted quickly to the new school.


To alter slightly to achieve a desired fit, appearance, or result.
I need to adjust the time on my watch.


To undergo change to survive in new environments.
Plants adapt to their environment over generations.


To regulate to bring into proper position.
He adjusted the rearview mirror before driving.


To adjust a work of art or literature for production in another medium.
The director adapted the play for the big screen.


To arrange neatly or tidily.
He adjusted the items on his desk to his liking.


To alter a thing to make it fit for a new use.
He adapted the tool for a different function.


To correct or calibrate.
The technician adjusted the television’s settings for better picture quality.


To make suitable to or fit for a specific use or situation
Adapted the novel into a movie.
Adapted the company policy to take internet use into account.


To move or change (something) so as to be in a more effective arrangement or desired condition
Adjust the timing of a car's engine.
Adjust a hearing aid to amplify lower frequencies.


To cause to be able to survive and reproduce under certain conditions. Used in the passive
“Every species is adapted to a rather restricted selection of properties of the environment” (Ernst Mayr).


To change so as to be suitable to or conform with something else
Adjusted the schedule to allow for everyone's vacation plans.
Adjusted the old monetary figures to account for inflation.


Is "adapt" used in biology?

Yes, "adapt" is often used to describe a species changing over time to fit its environment.

How do you use "adapt" in a sentence?

"Plants adapt to their environment in order to survive."

Can "adapt" and "adjust" be used interchangeably?

Sometimes they can, but "adapt" is often used for more significant or long-term changes, while "adjust" is for minor, quick changes.

What does "adjust" mean?

"Adjust" means to alter or move something slightly to achieve the desired fit, appearance, or result.

Can "adapt" refer to psychological changes?

Yes, it can refer to psychological or behavioral changes in response to new situations.

What does "adapt" mean?

"Adapt" means to make suitable to requirements or conditions; to modify to fit a new environment.

What is the noun form of "adjust"?

The noun form is "adjustment."

What is the noun form of "adapt"?

The noun form is "adaptation."

What does "adapt" mean in technology?

In technology, "adapt" means to modify software or hardware to function in different conditions or with other systems.

How does "adapt" relate to learning?

"Adapt" involves changing one’s approach to learning new material or skills.

Can "adjust" be used in financial contexts?

Yes, "adjust" can be used to describe changes to financial figures or plans.

What is an "adaptive feature"?

An adaptive feature is a trait that has evolved to be advantageous in an organism's environment.

What does "adjust" mean in a social context?

In social contexts, "adjust" can mean to behave differently to conform to the expectations of others.

Is "adapt" used for creative works?

Yes, "adapt" is used when a work is changed to suit a different medium, like a book to a movie.

Can "adjust" relate to personal behavior?

Yes, "adjust" can refer to making minor changes in one's behavior in response to social cues.

How do you use "adjust" in a sentence?

"She adjusted the rearview mirror before starting the car."

Is "adjust" used in a technical context?

Yes, "adjust" is often used for mechanical or technical alterations.

Can "adjust" mean to get used to a situation?

Yes, but it typically refers to slight changes or accommodations rather than major transformations.

Does "adapt" imply a deeper change than "adjust"?

Generally, yes. "Adapt" implies a more fundamental or comprehensive change.

What does "adjustable" mean?

"Adjustable" refers to something that can be modified or altered to achieve different sizes, positions, or performances.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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